More than 95% of all full-time city Department of Education employees have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as the department's vaccine mandate took effect Monday, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"As of today, all the employees in our 1,600 schools are vaccinated and that is unprecedented," de Blasio said Monday at a news briefing. "And that's on top of all the layers of protection, all the health and safety measures that make up that gold standard that we put in place last year- that's continued to deepen this year."
The U.S. Supreme Court last week denied a last-ditch request from a group of New York City teachers to intervene.
The United Federation of Teacher says the overall number includes 97% of the city’s 78,000 teachers.
“You will see all day today the schools staff, the teachers, secretaries, guidance counselors everyone working together to once again rise to another challenge,” said UFT president Michael Mulgrew.
He credits the high vaccination rate amongst educators to the delay in enforcement. Initially, the mandate was set to begin last Monday, but a back and forth legal tussle between the city and a small group of teachers opposed to the mandate delayed it.
Since Friday, 18,000 new shots were given out, according to Chancellor Meisha Porter.
"It means there is an actual bubble of safety around our children in their school buildings beginning today and every day going forward," said Porter. "With 100% of adults in buildings vaccinated, New York City schools are the safest places to be."
She also reiterated that vaccination sites will continue to operate in all schools with children 12 years old and up.
Olivia Jackson, a dance educator at Success Academy Bed-Stuy 2, said it is important to be protected against the virus but sympathized with her colleagues who are now not getting paid because they've not received the vaccine.
“We all have a lot of things we have to get done. We have bills we have to pay. And so I feel very sorry for people who choose not to, but at the end of the day it is your health you are putting at risk either way if you do get it or you don’t," said Jackson.
Joy Jones, the parent of a third grader at P.S. 59 in Bedford-Stuyvestant, said she does not agree with the city’s mandate and says she is unvaccinated herself.
“It is wrong,” Jones said. "Because they are the ones who were here when the vaccination came out. They didn’t have vaccinations then so it is wrong to force them to have it now when they were the ones, like the nurses and stuff putting their life on the line without vaccination for the kids."
City officials say they have a reserve pool of 11,000 substitute teachers that can be brought in to fill staffing shortages.